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Must-Read Op-Eds for Monday, March 19, 2012

THE WRONG WAY TO SHAKE UP CONGRESSEDITORIALNEW YORK TIMESPolitical entrenchment is a problem in a Congress where 90 percent of the districts are dominated by a

THE WRONG WAY TO SHAKE UP CONGRESSEDITORIALNEW YORK TIMESPolitical entrenchment is a problem in a Congress where 90 percent of the districts are dominated by a single party and incumbents can often take their re-election for granted. Those who want to change that can better spend their money supporting nonpartisan redistricting in state legislatures. They can also oppose state attempts to limit voter turnout, and use their money to encourage voter registration and participation in both primary and general elections. And they can lay down the weapon of the super PAC, which gives corporations and the wealthy an outsized voice in campaigns. Attack ads, which are their stock in trade, are tainting the political process and turning off many voters. Unlimited political money breeds corruption and cynicism, and cannot produce a better government.

HURRAY FOR HEALTH REFORMBY PAUL KRUGMANNEW YORK TIMESHow would ObamaRomneycare change American health care? For most people the answer is, not at all…. The act is aimed, instead, at Americans who fall through the cracks, either going without coverage or relying on the miserably malfunctioning individual, “non-group” insurance market…. The solution — originally proposed, believe it or not, by analysts at the ultra-right-wing Heritage Foundation — is a three-legged stool of regulation and subsidies. ….  As I said, the reform is mainly aimed at Americans who fall through the cracks in our current system — an important goal in its own right. But what makes reform truly urgent is the fact that the cracks are rapidly getting wider, because fewer and fewer jobs come with health benefits; employment-based coverage actually declined even during the “Bush boom” of 2003 to 2007, and has plunged since. What this means is that the Affordable Care Act is the only thing protecting us from an imminent surge in the number of Americans who can’t afford essential care. So this reform had better survive — because if it doesn’t, many Americans who need health care won’t.

JUSTICE AFTER SENATOR STEVENSEDITORIALNEW YORK TIMESThe Justice Department has intensified training of prosecutors on exculpatory policy. They are still allowed to decide what is “material” — a glaring temptation for concealment. The department should set a national standard by joining state and local governments that have adopted open-file requirements for prosecutors to be far more forthcoming about evidence favoring the defense. That is the only fitting postscript to the Stevens debacle. ON A CORRUPTION BILL, THE SENATE GETS IT RIGHTEDITORIALNEW YORK TIMESA month after both houses of Congress raced to ban insider trading by lawmakers and their staffs, legislation has not been approved for final passage because key differences between two versions of the bill are unresolved. A strong final measure is needed if Congress hopes to repair public trust by explicitly ruling out personal investments made with the use of valuable information gleaned on the job. The Senate offers the better version because it also includes badly needed repairs to the federal public corruption law affecting all levels of government — a vital provision the House struck from its measure…. The public interest demands swift approval of the Senate approach. But the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, is reportedly wary of extended in-fighting and tempted to accept the House version. That would be a retreat in the fight against government corruption. WHY THE U.S. SHOULD INTERVENE IN SYRIABY JACKSON DIEHLWASHINGTON POSTThis month, John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham are talking about Syria. They are making the case for why the United States should lead an intervention to stop the slaughter being perpetrated by dictator Bashar al-Assad…. Not many want to listen to them, even among McCain and Graham’s fellow Republicans…. Fewer still want to join them. President Obama has brushed them off, hinting that they are “beating the drums of war” with scant regard for the consequences. The blogosphere feasts on them, calling them reckless warmongers and much worse…. The United States has fought two grueling wars in the past decade, and the country is weary of them. The economy is weak; the foreign policy elite’s favorite topic of discussion has changed from “the world’s only superpower” to “managing decline.” Syria may prove to be the case where the three amigos finally fail to win the argument. The massacres will go on, and the United States will decline to respond. “I understand the public’s reflexive reaction of ‘not again,’ ” Lieberman said. “And we don’t have to do it. But if we don’t, we are going to find out eventually not only that doing nothing was wrong but that we missed a strategic opportunity.”CAN EUROPE’S LEFT REBOUNDBY E.J. DIONE JR.WASHINGTON POSTA crisis of capitalism is supposed to create an opening for the political left. But in Europe, the place where the concept of left and right was born, political conservatives have won the bulk of the elections held since economic catastrophe struck in 2008. Is this about to change?... The question is whether 2012 will mark a comeback by a left invigorated by a growing unhappiness with rising economic inequalities and a backlash against austerity policies aimed at saving Europe’s common currency…. And [Ed Miliband] poses exactly the right question about contemporary conservatives: “Do they have any vision for the future that goes beyond reducing the deficit? That’s the right’s vulnerability and the left’s opportunity.” This is a challenge that both President Obama and the Republicans who want to replace him might usefully ponder.LONG-TERM UNDERSTANDING OF THE U.S. ECONOMIC CRISISBY ROBERT J. SAMUELSONWASHINGTON POSTBooms become busts because justifiable confidence becomes foolish optimism. So it was. Believing the world less risky, people took more risks. Investment banks and households increased their debt. Lending standards eroded, because borrowers’ repayment prospects were thought to have improved. Regulators relaxed oversight, because markets seemed more stable and self-correcting. On the fringes, ethical standards frayed; criminality increased. The rest, as they say, is history. THE U.S. CRUISES TOWARD A 2013 FISCAL CLIFFBY ALAN S. BLINDERWALL STREET JOURNALThe current betting odds say that President Obama will be re-elected in November, with Republicans controlling both the House and the Senate. Does anyone think a mix like that will be less contentious than the one we have now? And does anyone think that Republicans, seeing control of both houses of Congress on the horizon, will be more compromising in the lame duck than they have been in the recent past? In sum, while we probably will not fall off the fiscal cliff in January 2013, there are ample opportunities for stumbles and slips between now and then. So wouldn't it be nice if the two parties engaged on this issue prior to Election Day?